Amsterdam helps set the standard for ethical use of AI
For better or worse, artificial intelligence has become an undeniable part of our urban landscape. Based on ethical practices already implemented in Amsterdam and Helsinki, 9 European cities have joined forces to help provide clear information about the algorithmic tools they’re using and how the information aids in decision making.
A framework for transparent technology use
As the technology matures, the use of AI has expanded to encompass everything from free life advice to facial recognition when entering venues. With this expansion comes a host of ethical concerns on how the technology is being used (often on unwitting participants), how it’s being developed, and what is being done with the data collected.
In collaboration with 9 cities, the Eurocities’ Digital Forum Lab has developed the Algorithmic Transparency Standard modeled on best practices already implemented in Amsterdam and Helsinki, as well as the Dutch Standard for Algorithmic Transparency. This data schema defines common guidelines for the ethical use of algorithms in a validated, open-source, publicly available register.
By making use of categories such as purpose and type of algorithm, geographical area it affects, and associated risk, the information is easier to understand and compare cities across the board. The register also discloses the source of training data and any potential bias or human oversight that may be involved, providing the public with clear insight into the development and potential pitfalls of the technology.
Using data to support society
While many cities only make use of simple algorithms today, this standard lays the groundwork for a common regulatory framework into the future. According to André Sobczak, Secretary General of Eurocities, “Artificial intelligence can be an important enabler to improve public services and support policy making. However, its use also brings ethical concerns. The efforts undertaken by these cities aim to set a standard for the transparent and ethical use of algorithms… In this way they seek to offer both a safeguard for people whose data may be used by algorithms, and have created a validated model that other cities can use straight away, without having to invest further resources themselves.”
The City of Amsterdam is renowned for defining the ethical use of technology, having created its very own algorithm register and funding further developments and research through initiatives like Amsterdam AI. The city is already making use of AI technology in various ways including effective crowd management in busy areas. Despite all the exciting possibilities this new technology enables, it’s important that tools to support responsible use are developed with the same speed and gusto.